Mostly due to safety and security concerns, at least half of Oak Park's eight elementary schools have reached the decision that students shouldn't be allowed to ride bikes to school.
District 97 spokesperson Gail Crantz said each school makes its own decision, based on input from parents and staff, the location and size of the school, and the safety of routes to school, among other factors.
Principal Jonathon Ellwanger, who has been at Beye School (previously as music instructor) for 19 years, said he can't remember a time when bike riding was allowed, adding that the school's PTO recently re-evaluated and re-affirmed the longstanding policy.
Ellwanger said the few exceptions that have been made have only helped the school reach the conclusion that the policy should continue.
"One concern is getting kids to school and home again safely, and that they wear the safety equipment required of them. And then there's the issue of keeping bikes safe here at school," he said. "None of these issues are insurmountable, but when you take them all together, it would take an awful lot of time and attention to make sure they're addressed."
Ellwanger also said that parents and school officials remain concerned that students often have to cross busy roadways, such as Lake Street and Ridgeland Avenue. He also cited the disappointment felt by students whose bikes are stolen.
"When kids find their prize possession gone suddenly, there's a feeling that school is not longer a safe place. Their school experience is tainted by that," he said. "You hate to see that sort of thing."
Irving, Whittier and Lincoln schools, in addition to Beye, also do not allow bike riding.
Irving Principal John Hodge said the school's policy is also longstanding.
"My concern is the route students have to take," he said. "They're often crossing the Eisenhower bridge, and riding on Ridgeland, which is sometimes not such a nice place to be before 8 a.m."
Hodge added that bike theft is also a problem, noting that the school doesn't have a staff member who can "closely monitor the bike rack all day."
The bike riding policies of Hatch and Longfellow Schools could not be obtained before deadline. Both Mann and Holmes allow it.
Crantz said both Oak Park middle schools also allow bike riding, but enforce specific rules, including where bikes can be parked.